Saturday, March 29, 2014

Into the Code (THECODE.WAD)

The last time I dealt with a computer virus related to Doom, I wound up in a mandrill's ass. Thankfully, Obsidian's Into the Code, a minisode for Doom II released in 2014, is far more reasonable. It's also fairly modest, fielding six levels with none of them clocking in over one hundred monsters. The plot feels right out of '94 / '95; there's a virus on your computer, and it's hiding in your favorite game (right?). You could just delete it, but in the interest of having fun, you boot up the ol' .EXE and get to clearing them out. I guess the logic of the code dictates that the virus oppose the player with the few tools at its disposal.

With a virus at play, I was expecting something a little more off-the-wall than what we ultimately ended up with... Not that there's anything wrong with that. Obsidian works the weirdness in "Malfunction" and (especially) "Proxy", but I was thinking cyberspace a la "Shaman's Device" instead of hardware a la The CPU. The design is very clean and at times quite imaginative; my only real criticism is that the dark gray and occasional blue rarely feel as vibrant as Doom can look, and I say that realizing how much players despair over an eternity of brown and gray. Those breaks in more classic Doom areas are very refreshing, particularly the red inferno featured in "Malfunction" with its brick megastructure and dark dungeon.

Combat is fairly demanding after "Startup". Obsidian strikes an ammo balance that's shy of Malcolm Sailor's overtuned CHORD series while still leaving little room for errors. "Proxy" is very unusual in its emphasis on the berserk fist, which you'll use to take down several monsters you might not ordinarily target with it. The author shows that he's not afraid of putting the player between a rock and a hard place and the resulting fights help to distract from the fairly monochromatic settings. It can also be, heh, very trappy, so watch out for falling ceilings, and if you find something you don't think you can get past, you should probably double back and look for a tool to help you out.

While the hallway-centric architecture and gray paint job wore on me a bit, Into the Code is still a very fun little mapset with a few unusual design concepts and a lot of mapping tricks that made me feel like it was for a more advanced source port than it really was, like those mysteriously appearing weapons and ammo. If you're up for a quick play and don't mind abdicating a little more control to the author than usual, it's definitely worth your time.

by "Obsidian"

An atmospheric opener with some nice implied narrative. It takes a bit of running past marine corpses through some clean-looking hallways before the action starts up, but once it's on, you'll have some good ol' pistol-whipping to do, which might get on your nerves. At the very least, it puts a lot of pressure on the player as you sling your way through imps and zombimen, so that the chaingun comes as a big relief. After that, the exit room's closet requires some care, but isn't at all challenging. Nice little MAP01.

Another short level, though twice the monster count, and introducing some hardbodies. Obsidian continues to exert total authority over the player; you won't get the shotgun until you've done a lot of work with the chaingun, and I'd think twice before taking out those rafters with the imps and revenants or you might be ill-equipped to handle the rest of it. I guess you can always grab the berserk pack at the end and go back to deal with any stragglers. The mainframe room is a nice little arena as the columns work well with the zombies, spectres and Hell knight to surprise unwary players.

Starts off with a tango with two cacodemons with a few surprises before the main event. You enter the ominous black portals and work through three scenarios before getting the blue key and thus the exit. One of these is a purely atmospheric gimme and another is a nice jaunt through red rock Hell that isn't too demanding except for the mancubus. The last, which takes you back to your apartment from MAP01, has a trick to it in that the switch immediately prior to the commandos opens up a little library arena you'll have to weather if you want the blur sphere. It's a pretty fun sequence in its own right, provided you realize that you have to go back to find it.

A very unusual level, helped along by some classical a la Edvard Grieg which gives things a surreal feel not unlike the pairing of Bach and The Sky May Be. "Proxy" is partly a puzzle level; expect to do a lot of switch hunting as you gradually open up the halls and endure features like gore appearing out of nowhere. It's also a bit of a Tyson map, with a couple of sections requiring some shotgun use (like the mancubus / sergeant room). Are you comfortable punching a couple arch-viles to death? If so, you'll be prepared for the only real challenges. I had a lot of fun, and even appreciated the tricky secret soulsphere (with its interjecting clown).

This is a very clean techbase level dominated by two major hallways that are the scenarios of some rough firefights. You need to make it down these corridors, but Obsidian wants to make it as tricky as possible, cramming arch-vile sentinels in two instances to make sure you don't just laze about. The red key room is a nasty surprise, such that it's difficult to even grab the SSG to make the revenants and barons palatable. The end is also a bit tough, with the cacodemons adding pressure to a player already restricted by arch-vile / revenant peanut galleries. The end-of-level Cyberdemon makes things tricky, too, as there isn't a whole lot of room to maneuver around in. Expect a little blast damage, at least.

MAP06The Corrupter
Boss map! But, uh, not quite. Obsidian puts you through a few tricky fights, but after the revenant / Spiderdemon surprise, it's pretty straightforward as long as you grab the BFG before the arch-viles teleport in. The finale is a very fast, constrained fight; you'll want to clear those pain elementals away so you can hit the pillar switches and trigger the ending. 


  1. Wow.... this looks FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! These screenshots really speak to me.

    (ps I didn't want to say it in the "Post your Doom Picture" thread because of all the bitching that would have ensured, but you have good taste in music, haha)

    1. Thanks! for my synthwave collection. I'm...always looking for more, heh.

    2. Nice collection, I'm really new to this genre so I see nothing in my playlist that you don't have. But it is probably soley responsible for helping me overcome my mappers block and finally finishing a map that's been giving me grief for 2 years, maybe counting 3 years if I include the first area I ever designed with Revelations of DooM in mind (that I couldn't help but sew onto the map for petty nostalgic reasons, but I like to believe it adds value haha).

      By the way you NEED to play Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon, it comes with an exclusive and amazing atmospheric soundtrack made by Power Glove... it's a crime against humanity if you don't play it. ;)


    3. Cool to hear that synthwave / retrowave is giving you some inspiration! Looking forward to Revelations of Doom. I do have Blood Dragon, I just haven't played it yet. I do have the soundtrack, though!

  2. tried this map.... mouse look up/down doesnt work? what the hell lol

    its not my options, all other wads i play the vertical axis works fine, ... odd

    1. If you open up the WAD with an editor, you'll see a MAPINFO lump. On the first few lines, you'll see some special ZDoom options that bar some "advanced" source port features:


      Some people get pissing mad when they find that someone's blocked these features. I usually don't use them unless specified that I have to, so when it comes up in stuff like this - an otherwise vanilla PWAD - I don't notice it.

  3. Yea its all good i don't mind the lack of free look , that much.

    I just like it to be able to scope out the details and scenery of the maps better...

    auto aim fixes lack of freelook so its definitely playable..

    not a deal breaker for me, :) keep up the reviews though love reading them, always good reference before I try a map, and im sure many more to come yet! cheers

  4. Was cool playing through this. Architecture was usually pretty blocky, but it fit the computer innards motif, and the maps were fun to navigate. The computer virus story was a nice touch, and the ending text-scrawl gave me a chuckle.